Bateau ivre moderators at iNaturalist

We all know that iNat staff and (some ?) iNat moderators have the right to close a topic. They sometimes do it very suddenly, which is ok as long as they take the time to do it well, notably when they apologize when needed.

Moderators should apologize when there is quite some evidence that they close a thread without fairly addressing the issues involved – no matter how often this happens and for how many different reasons.

They should apologize when their action looks like a way to attenuate or even cover questionable behavior of iNat moderators themselves. This is a conflict of interests, of course, and requires the strongest apologies .

Moderators should apologize when they behave improperly.

All that seems quite obvious to me. Yet please consider here just a very recent example of extensive failures to these expectations.


me : “As she went away, the fox remarked, 'Oh, you aren’t even ripe yet! I don’t need any sour grapes”

@trh_blue : ”@odole and @melodi_96 please watch your tone and try not to derail the discussion”.

@melodi_96 : “M, what? I didn’t say anything bad, and I get what @odole means, […] I don’t get tone reference at all.”


@tiwane “Regarding @trh_blue’s comment, I think she was referring to odole’s sarcastic sour grapes remark (at least it came off as sarcastic to me, as well as others) and that the topic has strayed quite a bit from its original question” […]

I am waiting for @tiwane to send me to prison for quoting moral satire fables for kids in the Forum. In the meantime I draw his attention to the fact that a satire is irony that illustrates truth and reality, which is supposed to be good for everybody, whereas sarcasm is the opposite : a way to distort truth and reality in order to be mean to someone.

Calling one “sarcastic” is strong! It requires among other things that one be shown to be mean to someone else, and that there is a distortion of truth. Saying “sarcastic” twice without any factual argument like here is quite remarkable. And sorry but the “I think” and the “at least to me” do not explain anything and sound quite neglectful.

Of course do not hesitate to explain how your feelings were hurt by me, as you suggest, and I will be happy to think on it, and will try to repair any mistake.

And @trh_blue why such a choice of terms like “derail”, why the usage of “try” as you do, and especially why the “watch !” command ? All these terms lie in-between calling people “drunk” and some kind of parent-to-kids-like way of talking, which hardly fits between you and me or anyone else in the Forum.

Such three offensive meanings in a row are another remarkable something, especially coming from a moderator.

This I would call the bateau ivre-kind of moderation, with hardly anything of the poem’s elegance and greatness– this analogy is just meant to be a colorful reminder to avoid overtly dismissive kinds of talking.

The multiple highly unhappy statements above were made in the name of iNaturalist, and that should be recognized explicitly and repaired or corrected accordingly. Perhaps by apologizing and/or by editing those statements.

In particular I would be grateful, @tiwane, if you would answer my flag on your post and the suggested edits to such post. I did not receive any reply yet, after 24hr and I am not sure that it worked. In fact, it seems that I could not flag it as inappropriate.

I hope this helps and thank you very much for your time.

@ueda @loarie @pleary @alexshephard @tiwane @carrieseltzer @albullington @abhasm

PS Should I apologize because I shifted the focus of the topic a little ? I do not think so. That happens all the time in the Forum, and furthermore when I did this, the initial discussion was fully over, and I did say upfront that I wanted to expand it providing reasons to do so. To me a reasonable moderator could have suggested to move the new part of that thread to a new topic. And moving it was a possibility when the topic was being closed.


Since I am one of the people whom Odole has mentioned, I will act not as a moderator, but as a regular commentator on this thread.

I will admit that not all of my comments and moderation calls are the best possible. I try my best to make choices that will be most beneficial to the community as a whole. I do want feedback and criticism – and I do get that from my fellow moderators when I make a bad call. I don’t mind getting constructive criticism from any one, since that’s how I can learn to do better.

I won’t comment on the content of this particular post.

I will ask everyone to remember that all the moderators here are human, and can make mistakes, be cranky, be tired, etc. Every moderator is a volunteer, except for the staff of course.


I appreciate your concern, but this seems to be more of an issue with specific users, rather than feedback on the forums in general…

1 Like

Thanks for the feedback, @odole. I moved this topic to #forum-feedback because it’s concerning the forum and not iNat itself.

Concerning your “sour grapes” remark: a forum user (not a moderator or an admin) flagged it as inappropriate. I agreed with the flag because I also read it as sarcastic, but I didn’t hide the post (which was an option) because I didn’t think it was anything particularly bad. Obviously there are gray areas when it comes humor and sarcasm, which is why our Community Guidelines ask that we refrain from sarcasm:

Avoid sarcasm with people you don’t know. Don’t assume everyone shares your sense of humor, or even knows whether or not you’re joking.

As someone who’s generally quite sarcastic among friends, this is something I personally find difficult, but I know I’ve hurt people unintentionally with my sarcasm, so I do try hard to avoid it here. We do ask that everyone tries their best to follow guidelines like that, and that’s what @trh_blue was getting at - just a reminder about sarcasm/humor and about staying on topic.

The moderators are currently working on standard responses to common situations that come up, I hope that will make these responses more clear and reduce any personal inflection that might enter into them, which I’ll admit to in my last (closing) comment there. I do apologize for my curtness, and I shouldn’t have italicized “photo” so often - my goal was to reiterate that the CV is trained on photos, so photos are the most useful way of thinking about computer vision. I haven’t seen any suggested edits from you, I’m sorry. Feel free to send me a direct message if you like.

I hear you, I think that would have been a better choice. I’ll keep in mind for the future. But also please consider starting a new topic in a situation like this as well.


Part of the sour grapes issue here - is that odole and melodi are using English as a second language. (I cannot speak either of your languages, and so I would miss tone in French? and Russian?)

Sour grapes = used to refer to an attitude in which someone adopts a negative attitude to something because they cannot have it themselves.
“government officials dismissed many of the complaints as sour grapes”

We, English as first language, are instinctively picking up a negative meaning - which apparently was neither meant nor received? But then who is the sour grapes aimed at?


I speak here as a witness of the offending conversation. I noticed odole’s “sour grapes” comment, but saw it neither as offensive nor particularly humorous. I couldn’t tell who or what it was directed at, but it sounded like it was intended to be funny. Tiwane’s “that was sarcastic” reply also didn’t seem insulting, because I don’t consider sarcasm to be negative. In some cases it can be, but that was clearly (to me) not one of them. I’m surprised that it became such a big deal. English is my first language, and I have read the fables of which odole speaks.


Thank you all for your very kind replies. I will answer soon, sorry that I cannot do it faster, for other reasons.

Yet clearly I need to think some time about the translation issue. That translation was not mine and frankly, almost nobody reads Aesop in the original language ! Would there be very different translations, or such a fast evolution of language, so that a classical satire can be read as a sarcasm in the same language at different times ?

And let me just add a complement to what I wrote. I suspect that the problem requires a task that is quite immense. This is not the only, let’s say, “parasitizing misunderstanding” that I have encountered in the Forum.

Besides possibly a linguist experienced in semantic diffusion…,the Forum does seem to require a professional psychologist and a good lecturer in history of literature. It may seem overambitious. Perhaps ask for an extra fee for it… or perhaps Amazon could finance it.

In the meantime, many thanks again for these very thoughtful replies.


FWIW, It is a wider issue than this one instance. But, I believe this airing of the specific concern here will make things better going forward.


It was me the sour grape ; I know now.

But at that time I meant the computer vision results. At that moment @melody_86 was minimizing the relevance of asking for human-like performance. But to me this was like saying that human-like performance is not very interesting because we cannot get it. So,

And Aesop’s intent was just to say something very basic and make it more lively. But I did not investigate a possible translation issue as yet.

@tiwane I am too tired right now. But will do whatever you said !

and @teellbee thank you !

Again, I hope I do not look too ridiculous, but let me say again I am deeply moved by your thoughtfullness.


Now maybe I understand in part why - in part because I forgot something essential. So please listen to this other person who will tell you this.

First, odole risks to lose his citizenships for having been unpolite to a lady. Only the offended lady could help him.

Second, he thinks that it is not true that your sentence was not elegant (except for the first word). And it was sharper in part because of that.

Third, he apologizes because, if he still thinks he was not sarcastic before, maybe that post of him may have looked strange to some extent, and in any case, this new thread he started was not an example of gentleness.

Fourth, let’s emphasize it again, the moderators’ task is immense.

Fifth, motivating this thread in the background were there several relatively sad episodes, but he knows that in about 10% of the cases, you were very kind, well above usual standards.

Sixth, do please not say that you will accept his apologies only if he gets an arm broken, because my name is Hazel and wish you a Sweet Thursday.

Seventh, odole promises that he will never try to be ironical again on iNaturalist, unless you accept his apologies. Which might be a good reason not to accept them.


I admit I should have acted differently in response to the post in question. It wasn’t my best decision as a moderator. I should have allowed one of my fellow mods to make the decision – I was utterly exhausted at the time, running on just a few hours’ sleep.

I think we can both work on making our intentions more clear. Avoiding sarcasm, avoiding needlessly short language, and avoiding needlessly flowery language would all help.

I have no idea what you’re going on about when it comes to my being a lady lmao
I don’t think everyone here even knows my gender, which I don’t especially mind. Blue is pretty neutral and while my Hebrew name is obviously feminine to native speakers there’s no reason anyone who doesn’t speak the language would recognize Tchaylet to be traditionally a woman’s name.
(I use she/her but they and mistaken he/him doesn’t offend me idc)

I do sympathise to the difficulty of translation. I’m bilingual myself and understand the struggle of trying to use metaphors that don’t translate well. As well as the struggle of trying to get one’s personality and intelligence across the language barrier.
That said, it is prudent to admit mistakes. Not only out of worry of offending people, but also because it’s the fastest way to learn.

I’ve not been the best moderator the last few months, as I’ve had a lot going on and a lot of stress. And not the best friend or identifier or community member in general. and hey, I’m a civilian on this thread, so I can drop the pretense which is nice. I guess I come across as formal and a stickler here. Come talk to me on Discord, I’m terribly sarcastic and swear and am possibly too fond of memes. Open invitation.

Do I accept your apology? Frankly, I don’t care about apologies. I care about changes in behaviour. no apology but a changed person means a lot and is good. an apology followed by the same behaviour (like not even *trying *) makes a person a deceiver and a liar in my book. so up to you.

peace out you guys.


I do not know lady Imao, sorry, but my overall inspiration was « l’amour courtois » (or similar notions in several different countries, e.g. “l’amore di lontano”).

The specific gender involved could be the other way round, or a single gender, and maybe age as the only divide, or no obvious difference at all ; you just need two distinct individuals, very separate indeed, and the shared desire to accomplish something in a complementary yet asymmetric way.
One is both the unattainable perfection and the guide to such perfection, the other aims to perfection while knowing it untouchable. It is not a kid thing ; it depends on how appealing, complex and useful you can make it.
A whole civilization in Southern France flourished and was then destroyed around that idea. So I meant this to be a symbol of the highest possible way to show respect to you. The meaning was simple and true, the form was both serious and not serious, quite obviously. But that was my last form of irony, as promised.

I agree with almost everything you wrote with one major exception. I do not think anyone really knows what is needless for someone else, and furthermore, even the most protocole-like language is always surrounded by something unrelated, that you can never suppress entirely in humans. This is a huge question, but let’s try to make it useful for a Forum. This is complementary to the following great question, very close to us now : how can a word hurt ?

Quite obviously a word can hurt because it can be an act. Perhaps the most famous analysis of “speech acts” is in the book “How to do things with words” by JL Austin. Perhaps the most common example is one getting married when the right persons at the right time pronounce the right words. In every speech act there is a simple mechanism plus something else that is as subtle as necessary ; it seems needless, but it is not such, not at all. The important thing is that one can often identify precisely what it is. Which I think will be of interest to you.

Austin’s taxonomy includes 5 main types of speech acts with some further branching. One of these 5 “kingdoms” seems completely dispensable per se. Many discussions and some revisions have followed. I do not know much about what followed, but I do recommend that pioneer book. Perhaps you could take a look at it for your pleasure. Maybe it will give you ideas for the Forum.

In the meantime, thank you for your time. I hope there will be other opportunities for further discussions.


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